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Doctoral Degrees

Characteristics Statement

Characteristics Statements describe the distinctive features of qualifications at particular levels within the Qualifications Frameworks. They describe the qualifications in terms of their purpose, general characteristics and generic outcomes, but do not include subject level detail.

On this page you will find the Characteristics Statement for Doctoral Degrees. A short summary of the Statement is published below.

Doctoral degree characteristics statement

Publication date: 20 Feb 2020

About this Characteristics Statement


The doctoral degree is one of the most high-profile and respected postgraduate qualifications in UK higher education. The PhD (or DPhil) covers a wide variety of subjects, as well as delivery modes (including part-time and distance learning).

Doctoral degrees can also take the form of ‘professional, ‘practice-based’ or ‘practice-led’ doctorates, which were developed to allow employed professionals to re-engage with research methodologies. These programmes have a different structure from traditional PhDs, with intensive taught modules at the beginning of study.

Whatever their form, all doctoral graduates will have demonstrated an original contribution to knowledge in their subject, field or profession, through original research or the original application of existing knowledge or understanding.

The UK doctorate has been confirmed as being in alignment with European-wide guidance, in particular with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA), which supports the mobility of graduates within Europe. 


This Characteristics Statement for Doctoral Degrees considers the context and purpose of these courses, as well as the distinctive forms on offer. It explores key features of the content, structure and delivery, as well as entry routes, the research environment, and the role of supervision. Assessment - one of the most important elements - is also described.

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Visit our Characteristics Statements page to find more Statements including Higher Education in Apprenticeships, Doctoral Degrees, Master's Degrees, Foundation Degrees, and Qualifications involving more than one degree-awarding body.